Race Recap: Ragnar Relay, Pennsylvania

Where should I start? Let’s rewind to January 2018, my friend asked me if I wanted to join him and his Ragnar Relay team – I scoped out the website, saw I had a couple hundred days to train and said, “why not?” After which I was promptly added to the team roster.  I came up with a fairly reasonable training plan and figured I had plenty of time to work out the details.

My friend hosted a couple of meetings, where we all got together and chose our “legs” based on runner number and also met to discuss logistics. For those of you that are new to Ragnar, it can be broken down like this:

The Ragnar Relay is a 200-ish mile race from one city to another.  The relay race is made up of teams.  Each team is comprised of up to 12 runners.  The 200-ish miles are divided into “legs”, ranging from 3 – to 9 miles each.  Each runner is assigned predetermined legs.  The first 6 runners are assigned to “Van 1” and the remaining 6 runners are assigned to “Van 2”.  Each runner runs 3 legs over the course of the entire race.

The race started from Lancaster area and ran all the way up to the Poconos.  Our team of 12 looked at each runner number and predetermined legs to find one that suited our running best.  Since this was my first relay, I chose one of the runner positions that had around 18 miles total – about the middle of the pack compared to the other available slots.  Anyway, not to bore you with the details, but due to some scheduling conflicts and last minute trades, I ended up in the Runner 4 position (totaling 16 miles).

My legs were: Leg 4 (4.6 miles), Leg 16 (3.45 miles), and Leg 28 (8 miles).

Enough talk here are some photos I took (enjoy!):

Gear Prep: I had packed 3 sets of running clothes, 3 pairs of shoes (2 to run, 1 pair to relax), various hats and bandannas, Feetures! and Mojo Socks, Running belt, headphones, safety gear, and a CamelBack waterpak.

Not shown, electronic prep included a portable battery pack (which was stolen or lost on race day) phone charging cables, iPad, iPhone, Garmin Charger, Garmin Forerunner 225, and two GoPro cameras and batteries.

At exchange 12-13, our van was looking pretty awesome.

In hindsight, we brought too much food. Everyone on the team thought it was great to bring trail mix, nuts, water, and snacks. I also thought it would be awesome to supply everyone with HoneyStinger products. Needless to say, no one was leaving or going hungry.  We had some much leftover food it’s not even funny – and despite grazing on snacks the entire time I constantly felt like I could just eat a nasty juicy burger.

Here I am at exchange 3-4 about to head out on a nice 4.6 mile run not too far from home (top) and coming in hot to hand off at the next exchange (bottom):

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It was awesome and exhausting. Our driver had backed out so our Team Captain and I took over driving and navigating responsibilities. Not ideal, but it really made this a hands-on adventure and added to my experience. Since I had roughly 12 hours between my legs, I was willing to tackle the job. I should also mention, we decided as a team to split up the driving for the ride home, so I was more than happy to pass out!

I snagged a few pics from my GoPro from my second leg. It was a nice 3.45 miles around a park along the water and ended up at a Church parking lot.  We were on time crunch, so I literally arrived and jumped right into the Van.

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After this things got blurry for me. We had about 6-7 hours of downtime which would have been ideal for rest, but being short on a driver required our Team Captain and me to stay awake and navigate to the overnight exchange. I will say, it was worth it- there is so much to take it we hung around a little too long at the second Van 1 – Van 2 exchange. This put us back a smidge and we got a late start to the overnight point.  We skipped going out to dinner or even stopped for fast food, we just had a laser focus on getting to the next exchange.

Sleep was (is) optional if you can sneak in a few Zzz’s I’d recommend it! All-in-all I got 3 hours of restless sleep, and that’s rounding up a little.  When I did sleep, it was one of those wild and crazy “I’m past the point of tired” dreams.  I dreamt that a girl named  Megan joined our team and was out to sabotage us, which became the running joke the following morning.

The next morning I was slated to run at 6:30 am and since we were running about 40 minutes ahead as fast as I could get ready, I was off!  I got to take in some truly beautiful scenery and since my portable power supply was gone, I didn’t get a chance to charge up my GoPros. This hill (above) lead to some amazing sights, my teammates captured some of the beauty.  The course ran along many dirt roads, the further north we traveled.  You could just feel how remote we were running along these winding roadways in the middle of the countryside with not a house in sight.

Our van by this point was looking pretty rough as well, but all in good fun.  I had added a few more tick marks to our miles and a few more sayings along the way.  Despite having backup cameras, we still couldn’t land the perfect parking job when reversing into spots.

Our final meeting was at a drive-in theater. We were all exhausted and over it, but still amped up for the finish.  Once we finished our legs, I drew Larry Enticer on the side of the window of our van, encouraging Van 2 to just send it to the finish line.

Drive-in pics:

All-in-all this post isn’t doing my experience justice. It was hands down awesome and I’d do it all again.  I knew 2 people on the team when I joined, and that’s being generous – when I left I never felt more comfortable with a group of new-found friends than I have before.  You wouldn’t think you’d go through so many emotions in such a short time, but we all laughed at the good times and shared in the pain when the running (and hills) got tough.  I walked away from this experience amazed at what the body is capable is doing despite fatigue, and feel an added boost of confidence in myself.

Here’s to the next one!

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iCare 5k

Every year a nearby food bank hosts a 5k almost in our backyard. Blessings of Hope has a huge yard sale, auction, food vendors, activities for kids, and of course a 5k race in beautiful Lancaster County. The company is predominantly Mennonite so it attracts the local Amish and Mennonite community at large. Turn out is always HUGE.

This year the 5k drew a much larger crowd as well. The course was the same as the previous year, a nice easy run on the back roads of Amish Country. There is a slight incline, at the very start, but for the most part it’s nothing too crazy and very runner friendly.

At the very beginning I noticed a lot of kids hanging around the starting line- in fact there were a lot of kids and I thought how fun it will be to blow past them at the half way mark. The announcer’s voice boomed over the handheld speaker as she yelled “GO!” and we were off. Truth be told: those Amish kids took off and I didn’t see a single one after that. Even though my first mile was complete in 7 minutes, and my second mile at 7:20, those kids were fast and long gone.

The course was beautiful as always, and the atmosphere and iCare event was a lovely experience. Even though I hit a few PRs, fastest mile (7:11), fastest 2 miles (14:31), I still finished 25th overall. I placed 3rd in my age group and received a fidget spinner medal- all-in-all, it was pretty fun.

Last year I ran a lot slower, with an average of 9:00 min/miles and placed 2nd in my age group. So this year I’d say the amount of competitors was a lot higher and the skill levels were just as high to match. This is a fast course and we saw some really fast times! Looking forward to next year!

Hard Cider Run – Race Recap

It’s that time of the year again! When the grass begins to grow,  the cider flows like water, and over a thousand people attempt the run the Hard Cider Run 5K in Gettysburg, PA.  This year we signed up for year 3 of running the Hard Cider Run at Hauser Estate Winery, home of Jack’s Hard Cider, in Biglerville, Pennsylvania (Gettysburg).  This is usually our favorite race, mostly because its in our favorite town, and also the course is just downright fun.  However, this year was a little different.

I will say, the PROs of running this race: Nice Shirts and Medals, the event hosted by Hauser Estate gets better every year with entertainment and food trucks, Race photos are typically posted within a few days, and the Jack’s Hard Cider is always welcome.  We’ve signed up every year for the last 3 years, so obviously we really enjoy this race, but I think after this year we’re going to take a break.

Side note: look at the first year we ran the race until now, Transformation Tuesday!

And here’s why:

First off, when you really enjoy something, it’s easy to over do it. And some times too much of a thing can be a bad thing, so in an effort to keep our love affair with the Hard Cider Run, we’re going to take a back seat for a year or two.  That is the main reason we are going to sit the next year out.  That being said, this year’s event didn’t seem as streamlined as previous events, and the overall experience was soured a little by that.

This year over 1,800 people signed up!  Like most races, this was broken up into corrals for different skill levels / running pace.  Since we treat this as a fun run, we sign up for the third wave, which is around the 10:30 min/mile pace (run/jog) corral.  In previous years, there was a 10 min break between corrals, which kept the field traffic to a minimum – this year, the break was about 3 minutes.  The course was changed from the previous years and rather than a gradual hill to start, the course immediately sent you into a bottleneck, and then an insanely steep hill.  There was a lot of heavy huffing and puffing as people attempted to chug up the hill.  Since the corrals were released so quickly, we did a lot of stopping this year due to traffic jams.  So needless to say, the race didn’t have a very graceful start, and it seemed like the traffic continued throughout the race.  By the way, speaking of people, race photos – this sums up my race experience (lost in the crowd), there were literally 2 pictures of me in the all race photos, and I’m buried in a sea of people. Haha.

Also, new runners, it’s great to see so many people participate in this event – that ensures it will be around for years to come – but there are some general house keeping rules they should have announced to each corral. If for some reason you are going to stop or walk, please step to the right side and let runners pass on the left.  Also, in tight areas (I know this hinders social time) but please don’t walk side-by-side.

Anyway, it’s not you Hard Cider Run, it’s us – we don’t ruin wanna a good thing.  In fact, after re-reading this I feel like I’m coming across as complaining and whining jerk.  Please know I love this race and we’ll be back – just not next year.

Hot Chocolate 15k – Race Recap

Before we start, can I tell you how much I love this race? The Hot Chocolate 15k is just an awesome race all around.  The only complaint is finding a parking spot around the city, but hey, par for the course.  This year I hit another PR, beating my previous runtime by around 8 minutes.  I felt strong the entire race, and get this – NO MUSIC.  I decided to ditch the headphones and listen to myself breath, and it was an amazing experience.

Running without music really heightened my other senses and I felt like I was sincerely listening to my body.  It also afforded me a chance to really take in my surroundings and hear what was going on around me.  Life can be pretty crazy, and it’s almost sad to say this, but you never know what’s going to happen at an event like this.  There were over 5,000 participants in the 15K, plus spectators, staff, and volunteers – it was crazy busy!  So being alert and knowing my surroundings was extremely comforting.  Another comforting sight was seeing the sheer amount of awesome volunteers, police, fire, ems, and sanitation crews.  Major kudos to the men and women of the Philadelphia Law Enforcement, First Responder, and Public Works Departments.

The first half of the race takes you from the Philadelphia Museum of Art toward Center City and then loops you back around to cross over the Susquehanna into Fairmount Park.  You run up Martin Luther King Drive and catch the wonderful sights of Boathouse Row.  It’s an amazing sight and such a beautiful landscape.   The Philadephia Hot Chocolate Run is an Out-and-Back Course, so once you run the entire length of the Park, you turn around and come right back.

I didn’t carry much on me during this year’s race, last year I carried Sport Beans and two water bottles with Nuun in them, this year a single Stinger Gel Flask and one Orangic Honey Stinger Waffle was just enough.  Heck, I even forgot to eat the waffle until the very end!  The entire race was enjoyable, it wasn’t until mile 8 that I noticed some discomfort.  I’m not really sure what triggered it, but I decided to check my heart rate at mile 8 and noticed I was at my max threshold (red area for those Garmin users).  Maybe it was a lack of glucose in my bloodstream, but I just felt a little off.  I decided to walk for 1 min, and see if my heart rate would drop back to my Anaerobic zone (Orange) or if I could manage to calm myself my Aerobic zone (Green).  I chugged the rest of my gel flask and nabbed a Nuun water from the last aid station – I checked my watch and saw that I had managed to bring my heart rate into a comfortable zone, so I picked the pace back up.  I finished feeling pretty good with my average pace around 9:30 min/mile.  Could I have gone faster? Maybe, but let’s save that for next year!

Finish Time: 1:29:41

Hot Chocolate 15K!

My race packet has arrived! I’m super pumped to be running the Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia this April! This year I intend on getting yet another PR, so I’m double-pumped to get started.  This will mark my third year running the race, and word on the streets is that there is a special “legacy” gift for past participants.

So I’ve got my packet, now what’s inside?

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Inside: The official Hot Chocolate tech long-sleeve shirt, bib, pins, and race information.

Initial thoughts: Every year I’m always excited for the swag, and the first and second year I ran the race the zip-up jackets were a huge hit.  This year they’ve decided to go with a long-sleeve tech shirt, and I’m a little torn on how I feel about it.  I’m on the fence because on one hand I was hoping for, yet another, jacket to add to my collection, but on the other hand appreciate something new and this long-sleeve tech shirt is nice and thick and perfect for late fall, early spring running.

All-in-all I’m grateful the Hot Chocolate organizers mail out the packets, having to drive 2+ hours to expo the day before the race and back again in the morning would be crazy!  Kudos to the HC15K team for the awesome work!

Being my third year running this race, I’m supposed to receive some type of legacy swag – I’m not sure if this is after the race or before?  If another has received the legacy swag, when did you receive it?  My bib doesn’t seem to indicate anything in regard to the legacy status either, so I’m not 100% confident how this will be handled.

EDIT, as I’m typing this, I went to the official rules: HERE

**We encourage all Legacy participants to join us at the Expo, to celebrate their achievements! Legacy items will not be mailed out pre-race. If you are unable to attend the Expo, we will arrange to have your Legacy items available for pickup on race day. You must pick up Legacy items either at the Expo, or on race day; no Legacy items will be mailed after the race.

Guess that answers that question! Anyway, I’m looking forward to this year’s race! Post-race recap to soon follow!

The Hard Cider Run Returns!

Feels like I’m a little late to the game, but we’re registered for the upcoming Gettysburg Hard Cider Run! This race is a must on our list of semi-local races.  The course has its challenges, from steep inclines to rapid descents… not to mention running through a vineyard, it is 100% awesome.

Speaking of 100% awesome, if you’d like to register, be sure to sign up HERE and join in the fun. Let us know if you’re going to be there and we’ll be sure to have some cider with you!

New Years Day 5K

We braved the single digit temperatures and as a family ran the US Road Running New Years Day 5K in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful day for a run, and we weren’t the only crazies that decided to ring in the new year with a run along the Susquehanna River.

The course begins at the Harrisburg Senators stadium on City Island, crosses over the river and traverses along a flat pathway along the Susquehanna. The start/ finish line was on City Island and was free of snow, however once you crossed the river and hit the footpath, you were greeted with snow covered trails.

The crowd wasn’t as heavy as last year’s, I’m assuming the cold temps drove people away- but there was a good crowd none-the-less.

The cold weather was a benefit in regard to the snow covered trails- the temps kept the snow powdery and prevented it from turning to slush. The air was brisk, but once the race began, the cold air was refreshing and invigorating.

The kids complained the entire time- it was glorious.

Family Finish Time: 41:12